Having spent the majority of 2023 in the halves, Kodi Nikorima is hoping to lock down the Dolphins five-eighth position next year – even if it comes at the expense of good friend Anthony Milford or rising star Isaiya Katoa.
One of the more valuable players in the Dolphins squad due to his versatility, Nikorima’s value as a ‘Mr Fix It’ came to the fore in the team's debut season once injuries and suspensions began to bite – playing at five-eighth, fullback and centre.
Two weeks back into pre-season training, Nikorima admitted that while he didn’t know what coach Wayne Bennett had in mind for him yet, he was hopeful of being able to build on the work he put into the playmaking role this season and lock down the No.6 jersey fulltime in 2024.
“I don't even think Wayne has any idea to be honest, but hopefully, I can build on what I did last year, which was five-eighth,” Nikorima said.
“That's what I'll be doing all the pre-season, hopefully, but I’ll put my hand up to play five-eighth next year.
“We've got a bit of depth, with Milf; Issy [Isaiya Katoa] started the year off there last year; Seany [Sean O’Sullivan] is still thereabouts, so there's a lot of competition which can only be good for our team.
“But five-eighth is the goal for me.
"That's where I want to play, but understanding that there's going to be injuries throughout the year and whatnot.
"Obviously I've got that utility tag next to my name, but I'll be going into next season wanting that six jersey and I'll be competing with the likes of Milf.
"It's only going to make me better, and hopefully makes them better too. A lot of competition is going to give our coaching staff a selection headache... and it can only be a good thing for us."
Nikorima, who spent some off-season time in the US where he also attended his brother Jayden's wedding, had plenty of praise to share about his teammate in Milford, who returned to pre-season training looking primed and ready to impress.
“I thought he played pretty well last year, he came in for Round 4 against the Broncos, his old team. To be fair, I got injured, Sean got injured and we lost that game by four points, and I thought he played really well," Nikorima said.
“Milf has changed his game over the years, he's been around a long time and he's gone from that running half to now a more structured, directional half.
“He's got a great kicking game, we've seen that when he played out here against the Dragons, he actually won us that game just for his kicking.
“He covers all the bases in terms of what a quality half needs. We talk about his best years are gone, but I still believe that his best years are still ahead of him.
“He’s in good nick and I have got to compete with him next year too, so we'll keep pushing each other and we can only get the best out of each other.”
Most exciting for Nikorima was the arrival of several high-class recruits, with the likes of Herbie Farnworth, Jake Averillo and Thomas Flegler adding a lot to the Dolphins ahead of their second season in the competition.
“We have obviously some high quality players that we're bringing in next year; one of them is an international player and Jake's still a young player, but he's definitely got a bright future," he said.
“Flegler was big time last year, especially for the final series. Him and Payne together, that one-two punch [was great]. Next year it's looking like it'll be him and Jesse [Bromwich] up front, so that can only be good for our team.
“But I think the thing I like about that is he brings a lot of aggression.
‘We've also got two maniacs in our team in Tom Gilbert and Ray Stone, so if I'm a halfback opposing them, I wouldn't want to be taking it too deep in the line because it can only end bad.”